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Listening Between the Lines

Posted by on in UNward!
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I recently woke up and realized that over the last eight years I’ve been a fly on the wall in over 2,500 discussions between some of the most thoughtful, passionate and fascinating educators in the nation--from wildly influential thought leaders like Sir Ken Robinson, Diane Ravitch, Randi Weingarten, and Secretary Arne Duncan to the next wave of influential education voices like Vicki Davis, Eric Sheninger, Tom Whitby, Erin Klein, Steven Anderson and Adam Bellow.

It’s my job to listen to every single show before it goes live on BAM Radio.  But I'm typically within earshot of the control room, eavesdropping on what is often the most riveting part of the discussions—the banter that goes on between guests and hosts, before and after the participants go “on air.”  This is where you hear what is being said between the lines.  It’s the meeting before the meeting and the meeting after, where people are more spontaneous, candid and unconsciously insightful.

I've often heard a single guest drop more takeaways in a 30-second riff before the show than all the guests combined in the 20 minutes that followed.  "Dude, we should have started rolling tape from the very beginning! … Yeah, I know ... next time. That’s what you said last time...  yeah I know" (conversation with self). 

Hopefully this blog will be the next best thing--a place to capture and share in pixels the most important things I’ve heard on the fly and a back channel to the amazing behind-the-scenes discussions heard every day on BAM Radio.  

Hopefully you'll find some of these unvarnished thoughts as fascinating as I do.  If so, jump right in and leave your comments. 

So here we go! 

ONE: Don Gately @donald_gately  shared an eye-opener this week in a segment about middle schools with Joe Sanfelippo @Joesanfelippofc and Tony Sinanis @TonySinanis.   According to Don, middle schools are misunderstood by most of us. To illustrate the nuances that many of us miss, he quoted an insight that was passed on to him by an old boss. "We have girls in this school who still play with Barbies, and we have other girls who look like Barbie."  As I pondered the skills required to manage such a wide spectrum of emotional development, I realized that I had never considered this for one moment and wondered if I am the exception or the rule.

TWO: Confession - After listening to three shows about Makerspaces this week, I still don't get how the concept is different than what we called "shop classes" when I was in junior high. Up until about 72 hours ago, I thought the 3D printer was the big idea behind Makerspaces. But in the EdTechChat Radio segment, The Three Most Important Things You Need to Start a Makerspace with Susan M. Bearden @s_bearden and Laura Fleming @nmhs_lms, a 3D printer wasn't even on the list. Paradoxically, I now know more and less about Makerspaces than I did last week --brain freeze. The only thing I do know for sure is that the topic is very hot right now, as it was the most popular segment on BAM Radio this week.

THREE: My third big lesson for the week is that it may be 1995 all over again.  Apparently some educators are twisted about how Twitter is being used. There seems to be a prevailing view taking shape about what is acceptable use for educators and what is not. Educators using Twitter as a marketing tool to get speaking engagements or sell books is apparently an act of heresy.  As I read the exchange on Tom Whitby's blog, I was reminded of a similar dust-up among connected educators 1.0.  

My fellow dinosaurs may remember the massive debate in the online education community, circa 1995, about whether it was “ethical” to use the Internet for commerce. Educators who saw the Internet as a tool for meaningful research were appalled at the thought of the Internet becoming a frivolous “market” for buyers and sellers.

I suspect that even those who were most vehemently opposed to the “garish” commercialization of the earliest connected educator community, now enjoy being able to buy a book on Amazon.

I see the twists, turns and detours we’re all taking as part of the birthing process. I think we all benefit by giving every sector of this new community lots of space to “act out.” I have faith that in the end it will all be good because the basic culture of the community leans toward the greater good. So hey, let’s enjoy the journey!


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I'm the executive producer of BAM Radio Network, which means I get to eat, sleep and drink education talk radio. Over the last nine years, I've been a fly on the wall in over 3,500 discussions between some of the most thoughtful, passionate and fascinating educators in the nation. On these pages I share the most important lessons I've learned from them, along with an occasional rogue insight of my own. BACKGROUND: I am a 25-year veteran of the media. Over those two-and-a-half decades, I had the opportunity to author four books; write for The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Times; and spent three years as a popular radio talk show host on KIEV in Los Angeles. I worked for seven years as an "on air" political commentator and co-hosted the Emmy Award-winning program Life and Times on PBS television. I eventually moved on to become a business reporter at KTLA in Hollywood. Owing to some great mentors, some good timing and perhaps a shortage of available talent, I managed to pick up five Emmy nominations and one Emmy Award along the way. Oh by the way, I went to Harvard. Well … actually, I was invited to speak there once, but I really learned a lot from the experience. :)

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